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Traditional Poetry Forms:

  bullet   Acrostic
  bullet   Ballad
  bullet   Cinquain
  bullet   Clerihew
  bullet   Diamante
  bullet   Didactic
  bullet   Epic
  bullet   Epigram
  bullet   Epitaph
  bullet   Etheree
  bullet   Fable
  bullet   Free Verse
  bullet   Ghazal
  bullet   Haiku
  bullet   Katauta
  bullet   Kyrielle
  bullet   Kyrielle Sonnet
  bullet   Lanturne
  bullet   Limerick
  bullet   Minute Poetry
  bullet   Monody
  bullet   Monorhyme
  bullet   Naani
  bullet   Nonet
  bullet   Ode
  bullet   Ottava Rima
  bullet   Palindrome
  bullet   Pantoum
  bullet   Quatern
  bullet   Quatrain
  bullet   Quinzaine
  bullet   Rispetto
  bullet   Rondeau
  bullet   Rondel
  bullet   Rondelet
  bullet   Sedoka
  bullet   Senryu
  bullet   Septolet
  bullet   Sestina
  bullet   Shape Poetry
  bullet   Song
  bullet   Sonnet
  bullet   Tanka
  bullet   Terza Rima
  bullet   Terzanelle
  bullet   Tetractys
  bullet   Tongue Twister
  bullet   Triolet
  bullet   Tyburn
  bullet   Villanelle


Cinquain is a short, usually unrhymed poem consisting of twenty-two syllables distributed as 2, 4, 6, 8, 2, in five lines. It was developed by the Imagist poet, Adelaide Crapsey. (For further information, please scroll down for an article on Cinquain from the SP Quill Quarterly Magazine written by Deborah P Kolodji.)

Another form, sometimes used by school teachers to teach grammar, is as follows:

Line 1: Noun
Line 2: Description of Noun
Line 3: Action
Line 4: Feeling or Effect
Line 5: Synonym of the initial noun.

kind beyond words
they protect and forgive
and make feelings of blissfulness

Copyright © 2003 Erin Holbrook

Knowing What Counts: The Cinquain
By Deborah P Kolodji

On October 8, 1914, a thirty-six year old woman died of chronic pulmonary tuberculosis in Rochester, New York. One year later, Manas Press published her first (and only) book of poetry, Verse. This poet’s name was Adelaide Crapsey, the inventor of the American Cinquain.

Crapsey was born in 1878, the third child of an Episcopal clergyman. She graduated from Vassar College, returning to her high school boarding school, Kemper Hall, to teach literature and history. A few years later, while teaching a course entitled, “Poetics: A Critical Study of Verse Forms” at Smith College, she began a study of metrics which led to her invention of the cinquain as we know it.

In its simplest dictionary definition, a cinquain is a poem of five lines. Crapsey’s cinquain was more specific, a poem of five lines with a specific syllable count of 2-4-6-8-2, usually iambic. The ideal cinquain for Crapsey was one that worked up to a turn or climax, and then fell back. Similar to the “twist” that often occurs in the final couplet of a sonnet, a cinquain’s “turn” usually occurs during the final, shorter fifth line or immediately before it. Thus, the momentum of a cinquain grows with each subsequent line as another two syllables, usually an ambic foot, is added bringing the poem to a climax at the fourth line, falling back to a two syllable “punch line”.

Part of the imagist movement in the early twentieth century, Crapsey wrote her cinquains in precise, natural language with minimal use of adjectives. Although influenced by her study of Asian poetry forms and her translations of Japanese haiku, she titled her cinquains and was not opposed to the use of literary devices such as alliteration and assonance.

At some point in the mid-twentieth century, elementary school teachers started using a modified version of the cinquain as a grammar lesson. Instead of syllables, these poems emphasized grammar forms as the criteria for each line. Although useful as a teaching tool, these “didactic” cinquains were never widely published. Recently, there has been a renaissance of cinquain poetry on the internet, of the syllable-patterned form that Crapsey developed. Modern cinquain writers have been refining the form as they experiment, sometimes using resonance between the first and last lines to bring the poem full circle. Many poets writing today’s cinquains draw from their experiences with haiku, effectively using juxtaposition to divide the poem into two halves, which compliment each other with layered meanings.

Cinquain poets have also been experimenting with cinquain variations – cinquain sequences (polystanzaic poems made up of cinquain stanzas), crown cinquains (a five stanza cinquain sequence), reverse cinquains (a cinquain with a reverse syllable pattern of 2-8-6-4-2), mirror cinquains (a two stanza cinquain sequence of the pattern 2-4-6-8-2 2-8-6-4-2), and cinquain butterflies (a “merged mirror cinquain” where the two stanzas of a mirror cinquain are merged together, one of the middle 2 syllable lines is dropped, resulting in one nine line stanza of the form 2-4-6-8-2-8-6-4-2). Please note that a cinquain butterfly is not a “cinquain” because it doesn’t have five lines, but it is a “butterfly” made up of two cinquains that were merged together into one poem.

Now it is the reader’s turn to experiment. After some practice, the rhythm of a cinquain will begin to feel natural. It is important not to force a poem into the cinquain form but to allow the form and the discipline of its syllable count to grow the poem. Since there are only twenty-two syllables to work with, it’s good practice to avoid the use of unnecessary words and make each syllable count. However, be forewarned – writing cinquains can be addicting!

Printed in the SP Quill Quarterly Magazine, Spring 2005, Volume 6. All Rights Reserved. The following examples were also published with this article.

Example #1:
Turquoise Thoughts

silver bracelet,
desert sky turquoise stone - 
city-bound but feels sagebrush in
her soul.

Copyright © 2005 Deborah P Kolodji

Example #2:
Cherry Blossoms 

blossoms float on
the afternoon breezes.
Petals fluttering down like snow
in spring.

Copyright © 2005 Marie Summers

Example #3:
Joshua Tree 

hair spiked,
a crooked stance
in the hot desert sun -
dust in his face, he limps towards
the blue

Copyright © 2005 Deborah P Kolodji

Example #4:
Long Shadows

in the morning
sunlight cast long shadows
upon the snow like a roadmap
of limbs.

Copyright © 2005 Marie Summers

Example #5:

summer heat wave…
Spring dies a searing death
only to rise from the ashes
next year.

Copyright © 2005 Andrea Da Costa

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